Maryland's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives bTC voted 5-3 against a leadership move to override President Bush's veto of the Democrats' election-year tax bill. Such an unusual result may explain why the Democratic leadership was unable to round up even a simple majority against the White House veto.
Only Democrats Steny Hoyer, Benjamin Cardin and Kweisi Mfume answered "yes" when the roll was called. The "no" votes came from Republicans Wayne Gilchrest and Helen Delich Bentley, which were to be expected; from Beverly Byron, who was defeated in the March 3 primary, and Thomas McMillen, who is running against Mr. Gilchrest in a newly drawn district.
Ms. Byron, the most conservative of the five Maryland Democrats, must be feeling unusually independent and uninhibited these days. Mr. McMillen has adopted the tactic of opposing both administration and Democratic leadership.
As fourth-ranking member of the Democratic hierarchy, Mr. Hoyer almost always goes along with Speaker Tom Foley. Mr. Mfume, representing a city constituency desperate for more federal largess, can be counted on to cast a liberal vote. Mr. Cardin, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, may have misgivings about the economics of the Democratic proposal but usually supports his committee's position.
The bill's key provision would provide a small "middle class tax cut" that would be paid for by increasing income tax rates on the wealthy and placing a surcharge on top of that for millionaires. But it never had a prayer of being enacted into law, and the humiliation of failing to gain a simple majority as 52 Democrats defected should discourage the leadership from trying again.
Which may be just as well. Except for some minor legislation to extend a few stimulative tax breaks now on the lawbooks, the best course for Congress may be to "do nothing" -- a phrase lately used by Mr. Bush that is bad politics and good economics. We applaud the stand taken by the Maryland delegation.